How to test real customers with the customer experience

The customer experience must be at the heart of everything you do; testing with real customers is the path to success

Today is CX Day in 2021, a day created by the Association of Customer Experience Experts. The organization organizes various events around the world, covering important topics around providing the best customer experience (CX). I think this will be a good opportunity to introduce some important considerations for CX testing and customer journey testing. I will introduce three key areas, which I believe must be reflected in the efforts of any digital product organization in order to create the most compelling customer experience.

Table of Contents

1. Accessibility excellence

I believe accessibility to be the foundation of any good customer experience. And for this blog, I carry the accessibility theme through, as it remains one of the primary barriers to ubiquitous, great customer experiences. It may seem obvious to say, but the goal of any organization should be to make products that are available and enjoyed by everyone, yet the 15% of the world’s population that live with some form of disability do not always have access to all digital experiences.

Prioritizing accessibility goes beyond just doing the right thing for people in general. People with disabilities represent a significant global market. The annual disposable income of this population is around $1.2 trillion (US). Assess your compliance to ensure you’re not missing out and can support all potential customers.

Applause was recently testing a mobile app for a large US big-box store to see how a full range of customers experience the app. The app contains virtual reality functionality that enables the user to point at an item to see how it would look in their home. Our testing group included people in wheelchairs. Did the app have an issue with mobile devices at different heights? What insight could they give to make the app better, even more inclusive? As another example, suppose you’re testing in-store kiosks. Again, what is the experience for an elderly person using a walker or cane, a person in a wheelchair, a blind person or a blind person in a wheelchair?

When it comes to accessibility and customer experience testing, there are four key principles:

Perceivability – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. It can’t be invisible to all their senses. This area includes: text alternatives, adaptable content, alternatives for time-based media and more.

Operability – User interface components and navigation must be operable. The user interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform. Things like keyboard accessibility, designing to avoid seizures and other physical reactions, and extending input modalities beyond a keyboard fall into this category.

Understandability – The information and the operation of user interfaces must be understandable. Users must be able to comprehend the information as well as the user interface operation. Text must be readable, web pages must function in predictable ways, and design should help users avoid and correct mistakes.

Robustness – Content must be robust enough to be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. As technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible. Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

Get these accessibility pieces right and you’re on your way to great CX.

2. Getting omnichannel right

We’ve all grown tired of the word “omnichannel,” but like it or not, if you want to create top-notch customer experiences, you have to get the multi-channel matrix right. Desktop, mobile, voice — be it through chatbots or your call center — all have to work in concert. Complicating this and extending beyond your own channels, there are hundreds of touchpoints where customers may interact with your brand, say, by reading a product review, or even speaking to a sales rep in a store that represents many brands.

To sort through all of this, you have to first get the customer journey mapping right. What are you hoping to have customers do? Do you want them to contact you for more information? Purchase a product or service? You must carefully map out all touchpoints with customers along their journeys in order to improve click-through rates, drive engagement and ultimately, drive sales.

There are some very interesting omnichannel statistics. One that really speaks to me is that companies with extremely strong omnichannel customer engagement retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement. Developing that strong engagement doesn’t happen overnight, but with proper planning and testing, it will happen.

What are the key elements to good customer journey testing? Use real people as testers to:

  • Find gaps in experiences in your different channels, for example, testing the buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) experience

  • Give you insights into their personal experiences and interaction with your brand

  • Help you design specific experiences for your different customer tiers – high-value customers, new customers, etc.

  • Browse/shop on different networks, various desktop and mobile devices, in different parts of the world

  • Ensure your expansion into new markets is properly localized, with accurate language dialect and awareness of local customs that may impact the CX

3. Payments

Though shopping and purchasing can be energizing for some, for others, it can be riddled with anxiety. You’ve navigated various channels – perhaps you started in a voice channel and then jumped to your mobile phone to look at a product description – and you’re ready to make a purchase. You’re excited, you’ve made up your mind. Still, you may have doubts. Will the product actually do what it claims it does? What if I don’t like it; will the return process be difficult? Even though the website says they have what I want, is it synced with the actual inventory? Is the site safe for me to use my credit card? Will payment work?

As customers come to the end of a specific journey and decide to buy, payment — something no one really loves to do under the best of circumstances — becomes the last hurdle to a good customer experience. It can round out a great customer journey, or it can ruin it. Payment testing is critical in this regard.

Now, add accessibility to the mix, as I mentioned as my foundation element to good CX; this is where customer experience testing is really key.

Here are some common accessibility issues related to payment and why you need to comprehensively test this critical phase of the customer experience:

  • Webpage timeout – Users should be given warning before the pages expire and should have the option to extend the session.
  • Difficulty adding a payee – Add-a-payee flow should be fully accessible using keyboard and screen reader.
  • No availability of live chat or live phone support during transaction – Users should have an accessible option available to connect to the support desk during the transaction.
  • CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) codes – CAPTCHAs are not always fully accessible. There must be an alternate equivalent method available to the user that can read the code to the user.
  • Multi-factor authentication – Users may find it difficult to access codes sent to phone/email before the page times out. In the case of one-time passwords, the user should have the option to extend the session in order to read and input the verification code.
  • Amount and currency not read by screen reader – Screen readers should be able to read the different currencies and entered amount.
  • Notification of transaction in progress – Users must be informed of when a transaction is in progress.
  • Change of pages as third-party pages load during transaction – Users can see issues as multiple pages from different vendors load during transaction; yet keyboard and screen reader focus can be lost.
  • Inaccessible card numbers – Credit/debit card numbers should be engraved for no-vision users to become accessible.
  • Documentation not available in accessible formats – Audio, large-size text fonts, e-text and printing in Braille must be available. Help docs should be available in multiple formats to support different disabilities.

How to manage the complexity of customer experience testing

At Applause, everything we do is about the customer experience. Our global crowdtesting community is composed of people around the world — including those with disabilities — who use their own devices and have expertise in accessibility. We test customer experiences/journeys across all devices — desktop, mobile (android/iOS) — and on a multitude of operation systems and networks around the world. Whether it’s testing UX, AI, roaming, security, voice, or integrated functional testing, we work with many of the world’s biggest brands to help create the best digital customer experiences.